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‘The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales’ Director Abigail Disney Expresses ‘Worry’ About Bob Chapek (Video)

Sundance 2022: ”He was notorious at the parks for implementing a lot of the cost-savings that have translated into terrible developments for the workers,“ Abigail Disney said

“The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales” is one of the most talked-about documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, both because of its take on the widening gap between the rich and poor in the United States and because Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, is one of the directors, alongside Kathleen Hughes.

Abigail Disney’s name, and the fact that she takes aim at the company co-founded by her grandfather (who died shortly after opening Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971) gives what could have been a run-of-the-mill documentary additional dimension and spark.

Disney and Hughes sat down for an interview at TheWrap’s virtual Sundance Studio and discussed what prompted them to make the film. In a particularly candid moment, Disney expressed doubts about Bob Chapek, the company’s new CEO, who started in home video before moving on to run the consumer products and theme park divisions.

“I’ve never met Bob Chapek. I don’t know the first thing about him. I worry because he’s never held a creative job at the company and from what I hear, he’s not interested in the creative aspect of the company,” Disney said. “That, to me, seems not good.” The last creative to lead the company was Michael Eisner, who led the company after a particularly fraught period that saw greenmail attempts by corporate raiders who wanted to slice up the company and sell the pieces to the highest bidder.

Further darkening Disney’s estimation of Chapek was a chat she had with Wall Street analysts.

“I actually talked to some Wall Street analysts about the company only a few months ago and they went on and on about how much they love Bob Chapek because of his ability to cut and control costs,” she said. “Whenever somebody on Wall Street talks about cutting costs, they are talking about people. They’re human people but to them it’s just this abstract notion. He was notorious at the parks for implementing a lot of the cost-savings that have translated into terrible developments for the workers.”

Part of the documentary details the struggles of the company’s theme park employees (dubbed “Cast members” in Disney-speak) to keep themselves fed, housed, and clothed. As TheWrap’s Steve Pond wrote in his review, the film features a couple who both work at Disneyland but live with parents because they can’t afford a house or apartment. It also shows employees who are so cash-strapped, they frequent food banks set up specifically for Disney employees. All of this is happening as prices around the various resorts continue to skyrocket.

Still, Hughes said many of those workers facing financial hardship refuse to walk away.

“They really felt, and still feel, that they would like to make things better there because they love the company that much and they love what the company stands for, so it was really fascinating to experience that,” she said.

Hear more from Disney and Hughes in the interview above.

TheWrap’s Sundance Studio is presented by NFP and National Geographic Documentary Films.

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